Mystery lot #2

February 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

Coffee Table 1 It’s no mystery what used to be in this empty lot on Rowena: Blackburn Lodge—a down-at-the-heels board & care facility—a couple small cottages, a showroom with ever-changing tenants, and a neighborhood restaurant called The Coffee Table

Food at the Coffee Table was good enough that you’d take out-of-town friends there for weekend brunch and prices were reasonable. (Plus it was one of the first places around to have a vegan entree of scrambled tofu). They also sold The New York Times.

Seating was plentiful:  a smoking section out front, large roofed patio in the back, and, in between, tables surfaced with colorful mosaic tiles.

All sorts of folks turned up at the Coffee Table: moms met other moms for coffee while their kids slept in strollers, community groups gathered  for committee meetings, writers bogarted the tables near the windows, employees from local businesses came in for lunch.

Then, abruptly last year, our Peaceable Kingdom was upended: The landlord gave the Coffee Table  one week to close up shop. Staff who had worked there for years were suddenly unemployed. Everyone was stunned.

We could have seen it coming. Years ago, developers bought the building and land under it intending to build condos. Blackburn Lodge shut its doors, but the other businesses held on while the new owners went through the permitting process. Neighborhood push-back forced the developers to integrate the Coffee Table into the project and to decrease the number of units being built.

Then the Great Recession hit and/or the developers got fed up with city and neighborhood demands, the project stalled and eventually the property was resold. The Coffee Table lived on, using portions of the Blackburn Lodge property for parking.

But, invisible to us, deals were in the works. New owners appeared, shut everything down, razed the buildings, and put up a chain-link fence. Rumor was that condos were in play again. That was at least a year ago.

I believe the property has changed hands again–or maybe I’m thinking of yet another sale during the Great Reprieve. In any case, nothing has been built–not even a building permit posted–and the lot remains empty save for castor plants.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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